WaPo’s Business Section Addresses Paper’s “Many Changes”

FishbowlDC has obtained an internal staff memo from Sandy Sugawara (AME/Financial) and Greg Schneider (Deputy AME/Financial):

    Memo to WP Financial department:
    To: Financial staff
    From: Sandy and Greg

    We know the many changes, big and small, facing the newsroom can be distracting, and yet the good stories have continued to flow. Just this past week, we have had a number of engaging and provocative stories on energy, digital television, behavioral targeting, the future of the IMF, student loans problems, investor mistakes, food safety investigations and extreme techniques for selling homes. (Plus Mike’s Wii exercising column was one of the most viewed stories on the website on Saturday!) Thank you.

    We have several new efforts underway and we want to make sure everyone knows about them.

Read the rest after the jump…

    In a few weeks, we expect to launch a new Page Two for Washbiz, designed by Tan Ly and reflecting the reporting and voice of Frank Ahrens, as well as a redesigned daily section by Denny Brack (with help from Kathy Lally) that will include a consumer/tech destination page and a biweekly photo essay jointly produced by Ylan Mui and Melina Mara.

    Michael Rosenwald has turned over his biotech portfolio to Kendra Marr so that he can write more personal finance stories, bringing his wit and sharp eye to that subject. Steve Mufson recently launched an energy blog. Alec Klein and Zachary Goldfarb have been working on a credit meltdown project that will soon be published. Tony Faiola and Travis Fox have a series of multi-media globalization efforts planned.

    Reporters and editors are also deep into projects on the working poor, rising energy prices, intelligence contracting, privacy and Iraq contracts. We are eager to hear other ideas. As you know, the newspaper is revamping its copy desk operations to create an editing structure focused on the evolving editing needs of the web and the print edition. We will have studied the successful copy editor restructuring in the A section and will be joining this effort on June 1, with some modifications to address the particular needs of the Business section. Among other things, we will be moving to a two-touch system and more fully integrating copy editors into our operations. We are fortunate to have an exceptionally strong team of copy editors. This new system will impact every person on this staff.

    Here is a quick summary. Please come see us if you have more questions.

    WHAT THIS WILL MEAN FOR REPORTERS: With fewer assignment and copy editors, we can no longer have all stories land on the assignment desk between 6pm and 7pm. If a story breaks early in the day, it will have an early deadline. We will assign staggered deadlines. Reporters will be expected to meet those deadlines. (They will be reasonable, we promise. The upside is reporters and assignment editors will be able to go home earlier.) Sara Goo, Greg and Sandy will be monitoring copy flow. In addition, with fewer copy editors, there will be less of a safety net for reporters. Once reporters have filed their stories, they should make a printout and review names, dates, locations and other facts while their assignment editors are doing their thing. (I realize many reporters already do this.) Copy editors still will be reading for fairness, accuracy and clarity, but they will not have time to do the kind of extensive fact checking they have been doing. Headlines are more important than ever for attracting readers in print and online. Reporters should put suggested headlines — or at least indicate what the headline should focus on — at the top of each story (in notes).

    CHANGES FOR ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: We are asking assignment editors to move non-deadline enterprise work to the copy desk by around 2 pm. We will also seek their help in enforcing new daily deadlines. Assignment editors have been paired with copy editors. Each assignment editor will brief his or her partner on the copy desk when the copy editor arrives each day. Assignment editors must be sure copy editors understand the daily lineup and priorities of their cluster, the graphics and photos that go with their stories, the strategy for headlines, the potential for late breaking news, etc. A substantial amount of copy for Sunday Biz and Washbiz will have to move before Friday evening. The cover stories for both publications must be decided by Tuesday (unless there is huge breaking news late in the week.) This will enable us to have strong photos, illustrations and graphics for these sections. So far, copy flow has been excellent for Sunday Biz. We will be seeking to get Washbiz on a similar schedule and will be asking reporters for their help.

    NIGHT OPERATION: Our Night Editor Mike Shepard will be in charge of the operation once Sara Goo leaves. He will watch copy flow, review headlines, watch the wires and will handle many late breaking stories. Mary Ellen Slayter is assigned to work with the economics cluster/Maralee Schwartz and real estate/Maryann Haggerty (with Tim Lawson). Mary Ellen will start her day at 2pm to handle early moving copy and to do first edits on some stories, especially those headed for the website. Mary Ellen is finishing a year’s stint on real estate, where as assistant editor she did a range of task, from copy editing to first edits to brainstorming with reporters to collaborating on page designs. We hope to build on that experience as we evolve the role of copy editors. Tracy Dahl will work with the corporate crime and financial markets group/Alan Sipress and with government contracting and privacy stories/Greg. Tracy has done strong work on past government contracting projects and we are eager to bring her into these efforts earlier. She will also continue to oversee copy editing on Sunday Biz and to work with Mike on scheduling. (Most copy editors will start at 4pm, although there will be a late editor rotation, with one copyeditor staying until around 12:30 each night. Lisa Bonos will work with the consumer cluster/Kathy Lally. Lisa has done a terrific job running the section on Sundays and she also will continue in that role. Tim Lawson will work with the tech cluster/Monica Norton and real estate/Maryann Haggerty. Tim has a strong interest in tech and his work on the food crisis series showed his strength with complicated stories. Kelly Johnson will be working with the local business cluster and will also supervise copy editing for Washbiz. Kelly is smart and energetic and we are eager to get her more involved in our local business coverage. We have meet individually with each copy editors, but Greg, Sandy, Don and Phil will meet again with copy editors at 5 pm on Wednesday afternoon to answer any further questions. On certain days during the beginning of June, Sandy will stay in the evening until the first edition closes to answer questions. We are asking people to be flexible and open to trying new ways of doing things. We will need everyone’s help to make this work. If you have questions, please ask.